WASHINGTON — At Hillary Rodham Clinton's confirmation hearing Tuesday, senators came up with a new interpretation of the Constitution's "advice and consent" clause. This one could be called the "admire and congratulate" clause.
"In Sen. Clinton, President-elect Obama has boldly chosen the epitome of a big leaguer," gushed Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"She's an excellent choice," asserted Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sounded as if she were writing for Hallmark as she told Clinton: "I truly appreciate all that you are poised to do and what you have done in the past."
The line of spectators trying to get into the hearing room snaked the length of the Hart Senate Office Building — more than even a nominee to the Supreme Court can expect — and yet there was no suspense inside. Clinton's confirmation was a sure thing, and the senators were so deferential to their colleague that they didn't bother to swear her in, the way they did when her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, came for her confirmation.
Instead, they posed for photos with the nominee and, in some cases, embraced her. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., informed his fellow New Yorker that she'll "be a brilliant secretary of state" — then put an arm around her.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., making his debut as the panel's chairman, spoke for "every member of the committee" when he called Clinton "extraordinarily capable and smart."
Clinton listened to the lawmakers praise her for 45 minutes, then returned the affection in her own, 33-minute statement. "I love the Senate," she told her clubmates.
Even Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., was smitten. He paraphrased Clinton's opening statement and then asked her, "Do you agree with that?"
"Sen. Isakson, I couldn't say it any better," came the nominee's reply.
The hearing was nearly over by the time Lugar gently told Clinton that he had some concerns about the conflicts of interest with her husband's fundraising. "Having said that, I've indicated that I support your nomination," Lugar hastened to add, "because your qualifications are remarkable."
"I respect you so much, senator," Clinton answered.
Education Secretary: Arne Duncan's Senate confirmation hearing to be education secretary was also very much of a kumbaya moment. Duncan, chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, was lavished with praise for his work in Chicago by both Democrats and Republicans at Tuesday's brief hearing. "President-elect Obama has made several distinguished Cabinet appointments. I think you're the best," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Energy Secretary: Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday and received immediate support from both Democrats and Republicans. Chu promised Tuesday that if confirmed as energy secretary he will aggressively pursue policies aimed at addressing climate change and achieving greater energy independence by developing clean energy sources.
Other hearings: The Senate also held confirmation hearings for other Obama choices. Appearing were Peter Orszag, to head the Office of Management and Budget; Robert Nabors II, for deputy director of Office of Management and Budget; and New York housing official Shaun Donovan, to be secretary of housing and urban development.